Dedicated in loving memory of Chana Michal bat Shmuel Mordechai v'Rashka,
Alisa Flatow, hy"d, by her family. Please learn and daven in her memory.
In the last issue, we discussed the central role that meals play in
regard to the holidays.
Food touches upon another subject: The Korbonos (the Sacrifices).
Many of the Korbonos are eaten, at least in part, by the Kohanim.
Certain Korbonos are eaten by the owners, as well. One example: the
Todah (thanks-giving offering). Its meat, as well as its forty loaves,
are mostly consumed by the owner's party.
The Matza at the Pesach Seder represents the Todah. This idea is found
in the early commentaries (Rush, Mordechai, Hagos Maimonides), and
eventually, in the Shulchan Aruch (code of law) Simon 475.
The Amount of Flour in the Matzos
The poskim debated whether there should be two or three matzos on the
Seder Plate. The Rush agreed that there should be three, and went on:
The Todah offering had forty loaves. Ten were leavened, thirty were
unleavened, i.e., Matza. These thirty unleavened loaves comprised
three types, ten of each type. A measure of three "isronim" was used
for each type; since there were ten loaves for each type, every loaf
was made from 1/3 "isaron;" every three came from one "isaron" of
The Number of Matzos
Therefore, the Matza of the seder should have three loaves of 1/3
"isaron" each. The Korban Nesanel explained: Even though the Todah
had forty loaves -- thirty of Matza -- nonetheless, one could make do
with four, one of each of the four types, or three of Matza.
Each person needed to bring the Todah for his own salvation, because
one who is freed from a prison needs to offer the Todah. At Pesach,
each of us were delivered from the imprisonment of Egypt.
Why is wheat the preferable grain for the matzos? The "Minhag Yisrael
Torah" cites an explanation. The Menachos (the offerings of
flour-products) were always wheat. Since the Matza of the Seder
corresponds to the Matza of the Todah offering, it is proper that wheat
should be chosen.
As we know, the Seder involves the eating of Matza (unleavened bread),
Moror (bitter herb), Korech (a combination of the Matza and the Moror),
and, at the end of the meal, another piece of Matza.
Although the Matza is an independent obligation, the Moror was actually
dependent on the Pesach Lamb offering. Since we don't have any
sacrifices today, the mitzva of Moror disappeared. The Rabbis
obligated us to eat Maror today, in order to recall the Moror eaten
with the Pesach Lamb.
The Moror comes in contact with the Charoses, a mixture of fruits, nuts
and wine. Since Charoses represents the mortar with which the slaves
worked, the Moror -- the food of bitterness -- should contact the
mortar -- the source of bitterness. (Maharal)
The Rambam, however, adds that the Matza should touch the Charoses, as
well. The commentaries express puzzlement -- the Matza reminds us of
freedom, the Charoses -- slavery. Why put the two together?
The Mikraei Kodesh quotes the Aderet. Rambam and Ra'avad disagreed as
to why the Egyptians were punished. Even though the slavery was
predetermined by Divine Decree, each individual Egyptian had the choice
whether he would be one of the perpetrators or not. Therefore, those
who chose to enslave and mistreat the victims, were choosing on their
own to do so, and needed to be punished. So explained the Rambam.
Ra'avad, however, disagreed. The Egyptians were punished because they
acted with greater viciousness than necessitated by the decree.
Why did Rambam not explain as Ra'avad did? It must be that the
severity of the slavery was for the ultimate good of the Jews -- the
situation was so dire, that they had to be saved immediately, before
their time had arrived. (The Ra'avad, though, must have another reason
as to why they were saved early.)
Similarly, the Rambam and Ra'avad argue regarding the Matza and
Charoses. Ra'avad cannot agree that they should be eaten together --
the Matza represents the freedom, while the Moror represents the
slavery. To the Rambam, though, there is no contradiction. The
severity of the pain caused a speedy redemption. (Aderet, cited in
Mikraei Kodesh, Pesach, vol. 2, page 172)
We have discussed previously how the wine represents the wine of the
nesachim (pourings on the altar); meat -- the sacrifices; the songs --
the singing of the Levi'im. In general, we say that our tables
represent the sacrificial altar. Ha'admor Mizedichov, shlita, has
often said that the similarity of the table to the mizbe'ach (altar) is
not that we fill our stomachs, but that we offer food to guests and the
Here you have sacrifices -- sharing one's food with others -- taking
time from our indulgent eating to contemplate profound ideas of past
and future -- singing with enthusiasm and spirit.
Imagine the meal that followed the thanks-giving offering -- the Todah
had forty loaves... There still exists a concept of a "seudas hoda'ah"
-- a meal of thanks. We must share our good fortune with friends,
family, those in need. First, though, we have to recognize our good
fortune. The severe pain, too, may all be part and parcel of the
redemption -- and, if so, we need to give thanks for it as well!
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156